National Theatre, Washington, 26 December 1910.
'And then The Follies of 1910 came to town and everybody went to the National. It may be an exaggeration to say that every one went to the National yesterday, but the house was packed to capacity at both the matinee and evening performances, and many eleventh hour amusement seekers were forced to regret that there wasn't any more capacity, so why not a little hyperbole? Ziegfeld's latest revue is a superlative itself, and rather induces extravagance.
'A coherent review of the newest stoke of the purveyor of revues is next to impossible. There are three acts, sixteen scenes, 25 songs, a hundred changes of costume, a thousand laughs, a trainload of performers, and a million surprises - thereabouts, or something like it. To furnish accurate information as to the amount of the various ingredients that go to make up this spicy refreshment one ought to carry along a high-speed adding machine. This year's Follies exceeds all speed limits and makes its predecessors seem tame, with the possible exception of the original in 1907. So much of the action takes place in front of the footlights that the audience is kept constantly wondering whether or not it is a part of the show - it generally thinks it is, until it is convinced by a transfer of activities back to the stage, that it is not. That's the fun of it all - having the person in the next seat, or the next box, or just across the aisle, prove to be a regular, sure-enough actor. Makes you feel as if you belong.
'But to get back of the proscenium again. The first scene shows the play you're watching in rehearsal. Harry Watson impersonates Julian Mitchell and George Bickel travesties Maurice Levi - the rest of the principals imitate themselves, and do it remarkably well. Fanny Brice bids a gleeful farewell to a Yiddish lady in a song called "Good-Bye Becky Cohen," and Vera Maxwell explains to Watson-Mitchell why she can't wear the costume, while her mother - for the moment - in the person of Arline Boley, insists that she's glad of it. Mother has a good seat in the second row. After Mitchell and Levi have had a fine little battle, things move swiftly. We get into the private offices of "The Get-Poor-Quick Syndicate" next. Shirley Kellogg entertains Andy C., Jim Hill, John D., Hetty G., J. Pierrepont, and the rest of us who aren't trying to get any poorer than we are, with "Nix on 'the Glow-Worm,' Lena," immediately after which John D. goes to heaven through a trap door in the stage that leads to a warm, ruddy glow, as of a large fire. Then Lillian Lorraine and Harry Pilce score tremendously with "Come Along, Mandy."
'By a rapid-transit device not disclosed, we reach Reno instanter. At Reno Bert Williams and Billie Reeves burlesque the fight in which Mr. Jeffries whipped Mr. Johnson so decisively - until they got into the ring. Williams and Reeves do a really legitimate imitation of what actually happened. Just as the fight is finished, Halley's comet comes along and flirts with the earth. Then we go into a music store, where Bobby North and Bickel await the arrival of a piano. Watson brings the piano in on his back, holds it there about an hour, then takes it out, in the same place, because it is mahogany instead of birdseed maple. North and Shirley Kellogg then sing "My Yiddish Colleen," to prove that [it] is indeed a music store, and Harry Pilcer says "Don't Take a Girl Down to Coney," to tuneful music. Pilcer's acrobatic dancing is startling. Enter Fanny Brice to gather in a personal hit. Her "Lovey Joe" [recorded in 1910 by Arthur Collins (3M Mp3 file from www.archive.org)] is worth the price of admission. So is the "Apple Blossom Grove" scene. There is a nice little lake in the grove, and every one goes in swimming - some in bathing suits and some in evening dress. The audience hopes the water is warm. Then act the first ends in a blaze of college colors, a blare of college songs, and a burst of college enthusiasm out front.
'The second act is gorgeous. Another slap is taken at the Café de l'Opera in the first scene, and a ragtime revue occurs close after the slap. The principals all score here, while they scare those present with a few dances that aren't as daring as they might be - but still some.
'This act ends with a chorus of Southern colonels, in a stage box with Shirley Kellogg, singing Dixie and Lillian Lorraine swinging out over the center of the auditorium distributing real flowers to the lilting strains of a real song, "Swing Me High, Swing Me Low."
'The third act burlesques Chantecler, the return of Roosevelt, and other things too numerous to mention.
'The Follies of 1910, in short, is a knockout. The brief outline here presented gives no idea of the flashing colors, elaborate settings, rousing music, and the cleverness of the long cast of competent players - among whom William Schrode and Evelyn Carlton are not to be overlooked - that constitute the three full hours of hilarity. There is not a lazy minute in the piece.
'Perhaps there are times when "'tis folly to be wise," but if you're wise, you'll see the Follies.'
(The Washington Post, Washington, DC, 27 December 1910, Magazine Section, p. 11e)
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